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Reed-flute Fairy Old Man

Once upon a time, there was a maiden named Fang Lian. One day, she was chasing a beautiful butterfly. She ran and ran, passing through the green law, the zigzag bridge, ascending the sloping hills. Suddenly, the beautiful butterfly flew into a cave and the maiden went into the cave after it.

Upon entering the cave, the maiden cried out in ecstasy: "How splendid! How beautiful!" Amazed, she forgot everything about the butterfly.

She saw in the cave lions playing, giant elephants drinking water, white horses racing, herds of deer grazing. Also, she saw thunderous waterfalls, tumultuous ocean, etc. When she was enjoying all these, a silvery-haired old man suddenly appeared and said to her:

"My little girl, how come you are here?"

Fang Lian was afraid at first, but seeing that the old man was benign and kind, she replied hastily:

"I came here while chasing the beautiful butterfly."

"Oh! Is this the butterfly you are chasing after?" said the old man, showing her the butterfly in his palm.

"Why, its strange. Why is the butterfly so calm in his palm?" thought the maiden.

Then she heard the old man's voice, saying:

"There lions, elephants, horses, camels etc. are all sculpted by me. They are sculptures, not living beings. They obey my orders. Look!" the old man took out a reed flute and began to blow it. Strange enough, the lions played, the elephants danced, the birds chanted...What a lively and happy scene. All of a sudden, the cave turned into a sea of joy. Fang Lian was so amazed, she said:

"How fascinating! Oh! Grandpa, can I come here and play from time to time?"

"Oh yes. But listen, you must come alone, you mustn't bring anybody with you."

"How shall I address you?" asked the maiden.

"Ah! Look at this reed flute. Just call me Grandpa Reed-flute".

The maiden took leave of the old man and thought that the old man must be the Reed-flute Fairy Old Man.

After Fang Lian returned home, she was still so excited that she couldn't keep her mouth shut. She told her neighbors about her amazing adventure, and the story spread far and wide.

The Ocean Dragon King heard of the little girl's adventure. He thought that the strange things Fang Lian found in the cave would be excellent for his Crystal Palace. He sent his troops of shrimps and crabs to the Reed-flute Fairy Old Man, ordered him to hand over his magic flute to him. The Reed-flute Fairy Old Man refused. He blew his reed flute, and all a sudden, all those horses, lions, elephants etc, which were so lively only a few moment before, disappeared. Enraged, the shrimps and crabs went back and reported this to the Dragon King. The Dragon King was furious. He ordered that the reed flute cave be besieged so tightly that not even a drop of water could trickle through.

"Go there at once," he ordered his subordinates, "and see what the Reed-flute Old Man can do! You must get the magic flute from him and bring it back to me."

Meanwhile, the Reed-flute Fairy Old Man knew that, as he had contradicted the will of the Dragon King, the King was sure to take revenge on him, and this meant simply disaster. Therefore, the Fairy Old Man blew his reed flute to gather all the animals and birds around him.

"I have spent several thousand years to sculpt you. I want the later generations to enjoy looking at you - my masterpieces. How can you be monopolized by the Dragon King? I must leave now."

With these words, the Fairy Old Man took his leave. At the sound of his reed flute, all the animals and birds stood at their proper positions and bid their creator farewell. Then, the old man played another tune. The outlet of the Reed-flute Cave closed of its own without leaving a single trace. Seeing that everything was done according to his will, the Fairy Old Man nodded satisfactorily and went away.

The belligerent troops of shrimps and crabs, armed to their teeth, besieged the cave watertight. But, all this was in vain. They couldn't find the entrance to the cave, not to speak of the magic reed flute, the Fairy Old Man and the animals. Finally, they admitted defeat and returned empty-handed to the Dragon King.

After the besiege of the Reed-flute Cave was over, the maiden Fang Lian went to the Reed-flute Cave to look for the Fairy Old Man. But to her deep disappointment, the old man was nowhere to be found. For seven days and nights, the maiden wept and cried, her tears gathered into a pond. People of later generations called this Fang Lian Pond. Only lately, the Reed-flute Cave was discovered by us. If somebody could find the reed flute and play the magic tune again, well, maybe, the animals and birds in the cave would play and dance like fairies as they once did.

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